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Minnesota is rich in blogs, and alternative media such as The Uptake .  Is another blog really needed?  Good question!   My main reason for setting it up is to have a place to archive and link to various emails and posts. Continue Reading →

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Action Alert: Object to arrest and prosecution of Jordan Kushner

Jordan S. Kushner is one of the most distinguished lawyers in Minnesota.  An online search makes immediately clear that he has a long history of standing up for democracy and freedom of speech.

Kushner was arrested by University of Minnesota police at the U of M School of Law on  the afternoon of November 3, 2015.   The arrests were apparently in retaliation for Kushner’s taking video of officers ejecting protesters from a meeting.  Filming cops is legal but often resented.  I haven’t seen them yet, but reportedly there are subsequent and false police reports claiming that Kushner was yelling and screaming in the meeting.  These claims are refuted by witnesses and video.  Reportedly, the arresting officers, lead by University of Minnesota Police Lieutenant Troy Butha, were somewhat violent.  While Kushner says he suffered no permanent injuries, he easily could have.

A story on this was posted on CityPages on January 20, 2016: “Jordan Kushner, crusading civil rights lawyer, on trial for filming police.”

Kushner is facing misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct, trespass, and obstruction of legal process (resisting arrest).  His next court date is a hearing on pretrial motions, January 22, 2016 at 1:30 pm, Hennepin County Government Center, courtroom 755.  The case number is 27-CR-15-31387, the judge assigned: Marta M. Chou.  The prosecution is by the City of Minneapolis, which has prosecutorial jurisdiction over misdemeanors.  The prosecutor is listed as Matt Wilcox, (612) 673.2005.  The Minneapolis City Attorney is Susan Segal.  When Mayor Betsy Hodges retained Segal, there were many objections from people citing Segal’s poor record on civil liberties.

ACTION:

Contact Eric W. Kaler, President of the University of Minnesota, asking that the prosecution of Jordan Kushner be stopped with apologies to Mr. Kushner. (612) 626-1616, upres@umn.edu

Contact the Mayor of Minneapolis, Betsy Hodges, asking the same:  (612) 673-2100, http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/mayor/contact/index.htm (contact form), Betsy.Hodges@ci.minneapolis.mn.us

Below are the notes I sent:

**********************************************

Eric W. Kaler, President, University of Minnesota

Dear Mr. Kaler:

Regarding: Arrest of Jordan Kushner by University of Minnesota Police

I object to the Nov 3, 2015 arrest of Jordan Kushner at the U of M Law School.  The irony of arresting a prominent civil liberties lawyer at the Law School should not escape you.  In addition, there are credible allegations that the University of Minnesota police officers behaved violently, and subsequently placed false information in reports.  This situation seems to bring additional disgrace and dishonor on the University of Minnesota, which already has enough of both.  It appears to me that the charges against Mr. Kushner should be dropped immediately, with apologies, and Mr. Kushner should be compensated for any expenses, injuries, and loss of income that he may have incurred as a result of this event.  I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours very truly,

Alan Muller
1110 West Avenue
Red Wing, MN, 55066
302.299.6783

**********************************************

Betsy Hodges, Mayor of Minneapolis

Dear Mayor Hodges:

Regarding:  Shameful prosecution of Jordan Kushner by Minneapolis City Attorney

I urge you to halt the prosecution of Jordan Kushner.  Mr. Kushner is charged with several misdemeanors he apparently did not commit, and is being prosecuted by the City Attorney.  The irony of the arrest of a prominent civil liberties lawyer at the University of Minnesota Law School should be apparent even to the University of Minnesota and the Minneapolis City Attorney.  It seems worth recalling that when you announced your decision to retain Ms. Segal as City Attorney, various people objected, citing what they considered to be her poor record on civil liberties.  I hope you will act promptly on this matter.

Yours very truly,

Alan Muller
Red Wing, MN
Port Penn, DE
302.299.6783
alan@greendel.org

**********************************************

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“An air pollution health advisory alert has been issued” by the MPCA

Code Yellow bad air is forecast from Wednesday through Sunday in the Twin Cities, and from Wednesday through Friday for Rochester.   But, the current conditions map shows bad air throughout Minnesota.  For reasons that are unclear, forecasts are issued only for the Twin Cities and Rochester. Continue Reading →

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Action Alert: Minnesota Public Utilities Commission: Withdraw funding for increased garbage incineration!

If you want, skip the gory details and go directly to the action items lower down!

As someone with a longstanding interest in energy and environmental issues, Minnesota can be a little strange.  The state, or at least the central part of it, often seems like a wholly owned subsidiary of Xcel Energy (Northern States Power Company).  I’m appalled by the ease with which Xcel seems able to impose its will, and the lack of dignity and self-respect with which officials and self-proclaimed energy/environmental advocates kowtow, grin and shuffle, for Xcel.  Worse, I’m living in Red Wing, blessed with two Xcel nuclear reactors, Prairie Island 1 and 2, two Xcel garbage incinerators ( an old convertedcoal plant) and an Xcel nuclear waste parking lot, all within the city limits.  As far as what Xcel has to offer, Red Wing has it all!

There are so many interlocking scams going on, involving so many entities and so many moral and intellectual failures, that it can look and feel overwhelming.  I’m going to focus on one here and ask for your help: Continue Reading →

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From the Mankato Free Press: “Role of Wilmarth waste burning plant still contentious”

http://www.mankatofreepress.com/news/role-of-wilmarth-waste-burning-plant-still-contentious/article_97663e2c-9cf0-11e5-a3b1-7f64fe0aefad.html

Veteran reporter Tim Krohn did an extensive story on this.

MANKATO — Since the late 1980s the Wilmarth plant in Mankato has been burning processed waste from counties in the Twin Cities and the region.

Before the plant was approved, local environmentalists fought bitterly against it, arguing the toxins from emissions would endanger people’s health. But over the decades the plant has operated at near capacity, largely without notice and hasn’t had any serious violations of its permit.

Now, as Rasmsey and Washington counties prepare to increase the amount of garbage that is processed and burned, Xcel Energy says the Wilmarth plant and another they operate in Red Wing play a key role in reducing the amount of waste going into landfills and producing electricity, with the Mankato plant’s two turbines making 20 megawatts of power.

But a Red Wing activist who’s long opposed the amount of waste being burned says Xcel shouldn’t be in the business of incineration and that the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is misguided in pushing for waste incineration and doesn’t put strict enough limits on stack pollution.

Continue Reading →

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Xcel Energy garbage burners belch out pollutants in Red Wing, Mankato, and La Crosse.

 

This is Xcel’s Red Wing “steam plant”:  Two 1940s coal burners converted in the 1980s to burn ground-up garbage.  Electricity output is small, around 26 megaWatts.  Emissions are high.

Some partial emissions numbers from the MPCA for these Red Wing burners:

Carbon monoxide  121,399 pounds

Lead                                    69 pounds

NOx                        1,212,168 pounds

PM10                      21,046 pounds

Sulfur dioxide        101,949 pounds

Ammonia                        149 pounds

Hydrochloric

acid                        16,040 pounds

Chromium                     18.11 pounds

Manganese                     20.22 pounds


Red Wing Total                                             1,472,958 pounds

Rough total Mankato                                  1,791,161 pounds


Combined total:  3,264,119  Well over three million pounds of health damaging air pollutants.  Numbers for Xcel’sLa Crosse, WI burner upcoming.

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City of Red Wing, MN, screws up.

Xcel Energy 1940s coal plant burning garbage from Ramsey and Washington counties in Red Wing (Goodhue County).  Permit expired since June, 2009

Xcel Energy 1940s coal plant burning garbage from Ramsey and Washington counties in Red Wing (Goodhue County). Permit expired since June, 2009

As a long-time opponent of nuclear power and garbage incineration, and advocate for environmental concerns, it’s ironic to find myself living in a city of 16,000 people containing two nuclear reactors, two garbage incinerator smokestacks, a nuclear waste parking lot, and various garbage and ash dumps both open and closed.  Still, there are many nice things about Red Wing including it’s picturesque location on the Mississippi River and a generally friendly, low-crime atmosphere.

Still, it is hard to understand how the city government can be screwing up so many things related to the environment and public health. Continue Reading →

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Marty, Garofolo gag public at “Legislative Energy Commission”

Xcel Energy 1940s coal plant burning garbage from Ramsey and Washington counties in Red Wing (Goodhue County). Permit expired since June, 2009

Xcel Energy 1940s coal plant burning garbage from Ramsey and Washington counties in Red Wing (Goodhue County). Permit expired since June, 2009

First, thank to all who sent emails or made calls to Ramsey and Washington county commissioners about the garbage grinder purchase.  As expected, the commissioners ignored public input and voted to go ahead with their incineration schemes.  A lot more work will be needed to turn this situation around.  More details shortly.


 

Should people be allowed to participate, to at least comment, at public  meetings of public bodies?

One would think so, but this is often not the case in Minnesota, and somehow people have come to accept it, or at least gotten used to it.

The Legislative Energy Commission

One of the worst examples is the so-called Legislative Energy Commission (LEC), co-chaired by a Senator and a Representative,–at the moment these are Sen. John Marty and Rep. Pat Garofolo.   The full membership is listed here.

According to the Legislature’s website “The commission also monitors the state’s progress in achieving goals to develop renewable sources of electric energy; evaluates progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions; reviews and recommends proposed energy legislation and takes public testimony on energy issues.” [emphasis added.]

Upcoming meeting Sept, 24th

The LEC is meeting at 3:00 PM on September 24th (Room 10, State Office Building, St. Paul)   Here is who gets to speak (full agenda here):

Rick Evans – Director of Regional Government Affairs, Xcel Energy
Eric Olsen – Vice President and General Counsel, Great River Energy
Julie Pierce – Director of Power Supply, Minnesota Power
Bill Black – Government Relations Director, Minnesota Municipal Utilities Association
Loren Laugtug – Legislative Affairs Manager, Otter Tail Power
J. Drake Hamilton – Science Policy Director, Fresh Energy

No public comment or testimony solicited or allowed!  Why?

These, of course, are the same utilities working to block the expansion of solar and continue burning coal.  They are causing Minnesota’s  energy policy problems. “Fresh Energy” is likely the worst, most wrongheaded and overpaid self-serving energy-wonk organization I’ve ever encountered, with a history of promoting garbage incineration, transmission, and “biomass” pollution.  See, for example, this upcoming disgusting event,” where the featured speakers represent the biggest air polluter in St. Paul, and a “biomass” lobby (mis)representing itself as “a trusted source of environmental information.”

So how did this public-excluding agenda come about?  The Executive Director of the LEC, Annie Levenson-Falk (her previous employer was the “Citizens League”) said in an email: “the speakers and the agenda were set by the co-chairs and myself.”  We had no luck getting in touch with these co-chairs.  This attitude of gagging the public and rolling out the red carpet for fat-cat interests didn’t originate with Marty, Garofolo, and Levenson-Falk.  A previous LEC co-chair, Rep. Melissa Hortman, told us “we don’t have time for open mike.”  Levenson-Falk, in an email, said “The LEC doesn’t typically have a public comment period in its meetings.”

So, lower-income ratepayers, environmental justice communities, people concerned about the need for and siting of energy facilities, people truly concerned about climate change, people concerned about the connection between waste management and energy issues, can just be quiet, and listen to bullshit from utility lobbyists.  Or better yet, not show up at all.

With these values and attitudes, is it any wonder that in the last legislative session Marty and Garofolo both rolled out what we called “mega-horrible utility deregulation bills.”  In spite of the strong opposition of the Attorney General, Xcel and Minnesota Power and the other utilities got most of what they wanted.  Xcel’s been boasting about this ever since.  See this investor presentation, for example.

So, doubtless the utilities will be coming back to the Legislature for another bite out of the apple, another reach into ratepayers pockets, more stalling on solar and efficiency, all using the “Clean Power Plan” as an excuse.  Marty, Garofolo, and the other LEC members need to be properly programmed and given legislation to carry.  So, we get meetings that are an orchestrated farce.

What you can do:

Energy policy issues can be complex and confusing.  But letting the public have a voice is simple and obvious.  Please contact call and email Marty and Garofolo, and the other members, and ask them to allow public testimony, not just pre-selected special interest testimony, at all LEC meetings:

Calls are often more effective than emails.

Sen John Marty:  (651) 296-5645, jmarty@senate.mn

Rep. Pat Garofolo: 651-296-1069, rep.pat.garofalo@house.mn

All emails in one bunch:

jmarty@senate.mn , sen.david.brown@senate.mn, sen.david.osmek@senate.mn, sen.julie.rosen@senate.mn, sen.david.senjem@senate.mn, sen.dan.sparks@senate.mn, rep.jean.wagenius@house.mn , rep.chris.swedzinski@house.mn , rep.jeanne.poppe@house.mn , rep.john.petersburg@house.mn , rep.joyce.peppin@house.mn , rep.tim.mahoney@house.mn , rep.melissa.hortman@house.mn , rep.tom.hackbarth@house.mn , rep.paul.anderson@house.mn , rep.pat.garofalo@house.mn , sen.jim.metzen@senate.mn

The senators below have withheld their emails, but there is a–less convenient–email contact form for each of them:

Sen Scott Dibble

Sen. Kari Dziedzic

Sen. David J. Tomassoni

 

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Car manufacturers cheat …..

The Volksvagen emission cheating scandal is broader than VW and has major health and environmental implications:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/09/23/us-volkswagen-health-idUSKCN0RN1PL20150923

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/sep/24/uk-france-and-germany-lobbied-for-flawed-car-emissions-tests-documents-reveal

http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/cars/2015/09/23/volkswagen-emissions-scandal-martin-winterkorn/72673028/

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/24/business/international/volkswagen-test-rigging-follows-a-long-auto-industry-pattern.html?&_r=0

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Update on Washington/Ramsey county garbage grinder/incineration scam

For some reason the links to the Eureka Recycling videos did not work on the email.  But they work fine from the web post, so go there to see them.

The two county board meetings are at 9:00 am Tuesday morning the 22nd.

Washington County:

“The public is invited to attend and participate in Washington County Board Meetings, which are most Tuesdays at 9 a.m. in the Board Room at the Washington County Government Center, 14949 62nd St. N., Stillwater.” and “South Washington County Telecommunications Commission web streams all Board meetings to view online.”  Map of location.  I could not find a detailed agenda.

Ramsey County:

Room 22o, Courthouse, 15 West Kellog Blvd, St Paul

The agenda has seven items related to the incinerator scheme.  There is no indication that public comment will be allowed.  I suspect it will not.

Incinerator emissions and pretty pictures

Take a look at the pic below.  This is how the commissioners of Ramsey and Washington counties burn their garbage in Red Wing and (Mankato).  Whatever happens tomorrow, this fight is far from over…..

Xcel Energy 1940s coal plant burning garbage from Ramsey and Washington counties in Red Wing (Goodhue County). Permit expired since June, 2009

Xcel Energy 1940s converted coal plant burning garbage from Ramsey and Washington counties in Red Wing (Goodhue County). Permit expired since June, 2009  Close to 1.5 million pounds of regulated, health-damaging air pollutants belch our every year (not counting carbon dioxide  emissions).

Some emissions numbers from the MPCA for the Red Wing burners:

Carbon monoxide  121,399 pounds

Lead                                    69 pounds

NOx                        1,212,168 pounds

PM10                      21,046 pounds

Sulfur dioxide        101,949 pounds

Ammonia                149 pounds

Hydrochloric

acid                        16,040 pounds

Chromium             18.11 pounds

Manganese            20.22 pounds


 

Red Wing Total                                             1,472,958 pounds

Rough total Mankato                                  1,791,161 pounds


Combined total:  3,264,119  Well over three million pounds of health damaging air pollutants.

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Arrogance at work: Ramsey and Washington county boards, and mainstream media, deny public a voice on garbage burning

Xcel Energy 1940s coal plant burning garbage from Ramsey and Washington counties in Red Wing (Goodhue County).  Permit expired since June, 2009

Xcel Energy 1940s coal plant burning garbage from Ramsey and Washington counties in Red Wing (Goodhue County). Permit expired since June, 2009

For a lighter approach to this see these two very nice, brief, videos from Eureka Recycling:

Then, please take action by contacting county commissioners (info below) and attending a board meeting on Tuesday morning.

Continue Reading →

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